In Conversation: The Life of Malcolm X

The result of a nearly 30-year quest and drawing on hundreds of hours of interviews, The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X is an epic biography of one […]


In Conversation: The Life of Malcolm X

Authors:Tamara Payne, Randall Pinkston, Les Payne


The result of a nearly 30-year quest and drawing on hundreds of hours of interviews, The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X is an epic biography of one of the most politically relevant figures of the 20th century, and a labor of love for co-author Tamara Payne, who completed the work after the 2018 death of her father, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist and former Newsday editor Les Payne. She’s talking about the book, and the legacies left behind both by its subject and her father, with Emmy-winning journalist Randall Pinkston, who spent more than 30 years with CBS News as a correspondent and anchor.

Tamara Payne

Tamara Payne served as Les Payne’s principal researcher and completed her father’s seminal work on Malcolm X – an extraordinarily comprehensive and detailed lifelong account of the activist – after his death in 2018. Speaking of the book, Payne said, “I was dedicated not just to the project, but to my father, and to wanting his work to be the best it could be when it was ready to be published. I’m just proud to be in a position to make sure my father’s life work is out there. Dad would always tell us, ‘information is powerful,’ but you need to know it’s there.”

Randall Pinkston

Randall Pinkston joined CBS News as its White House correspondent. He spent two years covering President George H. W. Bush, including breaking the news in January 1992 of the president falling ill while dining with Japan’s prime minister, Kiichi Miyazawa. In 1994, Pinkston was moved to CBS’ New York bureau, where he reported for the CBS Evening News and other CBS news broadcasts. He has covered wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the U.S. intervention in Haiti, the Unabomber story, the standoff involving the Montana Freemen, and the trial of Susan Smith. After leaving CBS in 2013, Pinkston spent three years with the Al Jazeera Media Network.

Les Payne

Les Payne (1941–2018), born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, was a Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative journalist and a former editor at Newsday. A founder of the National Association of Black Journalists, Payne also wrote an award-winning syndicated column. After his passing, his daughter and primary researcher, Tamara Payne, completed The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X (Liveright) Les Payne embarked in 1990 on a nearly thirty-year-long quest to interview anyone he could find who had actually known Malcolm X— all living siblings of the Malcolm Little family, classmates, street friends, cellmates, Nation of Islam figures, FBI moles and cops, and political leaders around the world. His goal was ambitious: to transform what would become over a hundred hours of interviews into an unprecedented portrait of Malcolm X, one that would separate fact from fiction. The result is this historic biography that conjures a never-before-seen world of its protagonist. In the process he corrects the historical record and delivers extraordinary revelations including a clandestine meeting with the KKK and a minute-by-minute account of Malcolm X’s murder at the Audubon Ballroom. The Library Journal, in a starred review, called it “Monumental […] Payne’s richly detailed account is based on hundreds of interviews with Malcolm X’s family members, childhood friends, cellmates, allies, and enemies. […] An extraordinary and essential portrait of the man behind the icon.”

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